Friday, December 26, 2008

Vento Residences, Greenest Multifamily in N. America!

Vento Residences

( Note: This story originally ran earlier this year, Vento Residencecs are now two years old and can be found in the community of Bridgeland, at The Bridges, the site of the former General Hospital.)

The Vento Residences has earned North America's first LEED Platinum* certification for a multi-family residential project. Located in Calgary, Alberta and built for a price of $8 million, this multi-use urban infill project has 20 two-story townhouse suites that are situated above retail space. Interestingly, the development was coming online at the same time as several other developments in the area and sold out quickly at a slight premium in price (compared to the competition). Purchasers identified with the dark green units and bought them up in a heartbeat.

The design includes the following green features: individual heat recovery ventilators, stormwater recycling for toilet and irrigation water, dual-flush toilets, radiant floor heating, double-glazed low-E argon filled windows, occupancy sensors, ample daylight infiltration, 100% recycled countertops, regionally-sourced renewable materials, and private gardens for each unit. As a result, The Vento uses about 50% less water and 47% less energy than comparable condo units.



Vento Diagram - CLICK TO ENLARGE

*This project was certified by the Canadian Green Building Council.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Green Collar Economy

Watch Van Jones discuss the Green Collar Economy

Part of the Solution: Permaculture

Permaculture - from the marrying of the two words "permanent" and "culture".

According to the Real Goods Solar Living Sourcebook, Permaculuture is "a holistic system of design that embraces the totality of a place. Grounded in the ethical intentions of Earth Care, People Care, and Fair Share, Permaculture design is a system of assembling conceptual, material, and strategic components in patterns that provide mutually beneficial, sustainable, and secure places for all forms of life on earth. Permaculture pulls from the depths of indigenous wisdom as well the patterns found in Nature. It is a way to garden and a way to build our homes, but it is also a design system that can be applied to larger-scale economic and social institutions.

On January 17-18, 2009 Ravis Sustainable is bringing Jesse Lemieux from Pacific Permaculture to teach a introductory class on Permaculture. It run s from 9am to 4pm, both Saturday and Sunday. Cost is $250. For more information contact Rob Avis at or online at

Sunday, December 14, 2008

New Research Ranks Top Renewable Energy Options

Sarah Kuck

Modern wind energy plant in rural scenery.

Image credit: Wikipedia

New research from Stanford University ranks wind power as the most promising alternative source of energy. Titled Review of solutions to global warming, air pollution, and energy security, the report from civil and environmental engineering professor Mark Z. Jacobson ranks the world's energy options -- putting wind, concentrated solar and geothermal at the top of the list, and nuclear power and coal with carbon capture and sequestration in a tie for dead last.

According to a recent article from,

Jacobson has conducted the first quantitative, scientific evaluation of the proposed, major, energy-related solutions by assessing not only their potential for delivering energy for electricity and vehicles, but also their impacts on global warming, human health, energy security, water supply, space requirements, wildlife, water pollution, reliability and sustainability. His findings indicate that the options that are getting the most attention are between 25 to 1,000 times more polluting than the best available options.
"The energy alternatives that are good are not the ones that people have been talking about the most. And some options that have been proposed are just downright awful," Jacobson said. "Ethanol-based biofuels will actually cause more harm to human health, wildlife, water supply and land use than current fossil fuels." He added that ethanol may also emit more global-warming pollutants than fossil fuels, according to the latest scientific studies.
The raw energy sources that Jacobson found to be the most promising are, in order, wind, concentrated solar (the use of mirrors to heat a fluid), geothermal, tidal, solar photovoltaics (rooftop solar panels), wave and hydroelectric. He recommends against nuclear, coal with carbon capture and sequestration, corn ethanol and cellulosic ethanol, which is made of prairie grass. In fact, he found cellulosic ethanol was worse than corn ethanol because it results in more air pollution, requires more land to produce and causes more damage to wildlife.

From his findings, Jacobson is able to suggest that the U.S. government invest money and create jobs around the development of wind, solar and geothermal:

"There is a lot of talk among politicians that we need a massive jobs program to pull the economy out of the current recession," Jacobson said. "Well, putting people to work building wind turbines, solar plants, geothermal plants, electric vehicles and transmission lines would not only create jobs but would also reduce costs due to health care, crop damage and climate damage from current vehicle and electric power pollution, as well as provide the world with a truly unlimited supply of clean power."

Although wind energy cannot do it alone, Jacobson remarks, we can use a combination of the cleanest renewables to create a powerful, stable and consistent supply of energy for the United States. Here is how Jacobson ranks the renewables, from best to worst:

Best to worst electric power sources:

1. Wind power
2. concentrated solar power (CSP)
3. geothermal power
4. tidal power
5. solar photovoltaics (PV)
6. wave power
7. hydroelectric power
8. a tie between nuclear power and coal with carbon capture and sequestration (CCS)

In addition to being a "dirtier" from of renewable energy, Jacobson adds that nuclear takes longer to plan, permit and construct. Also, it brings up major security issues, since finding and refining uranium for the plants has the potential to increase terrorist activity.

"The potential for terrorists to obtain a nuclear weapon or for states to develop nuclear weapons that could be used in limited regional wars will certainly increase with an increase in the number of nuclear energy facilities worldwide."

Having well documented, non-corporate funded research like this at your fingertips is extraordinarily helpful for everyone from community members to high-ranking government officials. Now that we are moving into a different political atmosphere, hopefully we can look forward to more scientific documents that will provide us useful, hard evidence for positive solutions.

To read the full paper, click here.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

A Open Letter to a Politician (who just happens to also be my cousin)

Hey Doug,

And I luv ya too, cuz..

I have a tremendous amount of respect for you and what you're doing, I know it isn't easy, and I'm sure it's even harder, than the hard I envision and I wouldn't expect you to see eye to eye with me on everything. As you know I grew up with a single mother, a never there alcoholic father, was an asthmatic child and my Mom got cancer when I was 5. All of these things effect your perspective and when your growing up and trying to find your place in the world, the environmental community seemed like the right place for me, I don't always agree with everything, because I did come from a family with Conservative and farming roots as well and that has shaped my perspective too.

The reality is, there are no easy answers, and no one person is 100% right, because everyone has different things happen to them in life that shape their perspective, sometimes I feel like the more I read and more I try to figure people out though, the more I wish I would just keep my mouth shut, but that's not like the people in our family, is it?

Yes I do live in Calgary, I've considered moving many times, but there is a good eco-community movement growing here, and I feel I can make a difference in it at least for now. I do live in a condo, it's heated by geothermal and solar thermal hot water heating. Calgary has some of most sunny weather in major cities across Canada and there's lots of potential to be done with it.

Rudolph Diesel ran his first engine on bio-based fuel, so did Henry Ford, Diesel was rather adamant about petro fuels not being used in his engine at all, but he was up against Goliath and we all know how that ended up. Today we have many alternatives, including things like algae based fuels (which I've seen run down in California in real cars) and all sorts of alternatives that don't require much energy to produce, thus there EROEI (energy returned on energy invested) has a ratio higher than 10:1 unlike Tarsands oil. Sure Suzuki has been saying this for a while, it's going to happen, I like to draw on a great metaphor from businessman Ray Anderson from Interface--In the earlier attempts to fly, the man going off a very high cliff in his plane with his wings flapping thinks he's flying, but in reality he’s actually in free-fall and doesn’t know it yet because the ground is so far away and of course he’s doomed to crash. That’s our civilization, the very high cliff represents the seemingly unlimited resources we seem to have, but the craft isn’t flying because it’s not built to the laws of aerodynamics and is subject to the law of gravity. Our civilization is not flying, because it’s not built to the laws of aerodynamics for civilizations what would fly. The ground is still a long way away but some people have seen that ground and told us it’s you say you have an Honours Degree in Environmental told me two years ago you voted Green, so I know you know...maybe things have changed a bit, but it's like I said before I don't always agree either, with the Greens, with other parties and so on.

The whole idea behind this is "consequences", we teach our children that actions have consequences, but collectivity as a society we don't seem to think so, the idea that we the human race are too small to affect the climate is crazy, remember the Montreal Protocol on CFCs, oh yeah we can effect things up there can't we! We came together then, but this is apparently too big, too many people stand to lose too much and because so much of our society is build on it, your right I could end up with with no power, no imported food, etc. but that's a risk I'm willing to take, because it's still the right thing to do. That may sound crazy, but it's worked for me so far....can't say the same for everyone.


this is a response to "An Open Letter to an Environmentalist" from Doug Griffiths, MLA